US Navy ships will shoot Iranian gunboats that get too close out of the water, President Donald Trump said on Wednesday after 11 vessels from Iran's elite fighting force came dangerously close to American ships in the Gulf.
We're not going to stand for it. If they do that that's putting our ships in danger and our great crews and sailors in danger - I'm not going to let that happen. And we will - they'll shoot them out of the water, said Trump at a daily briefing.
That's a threat. When they get that close to our boat, and they have guns, they have very substantial weapons on those boats, but we'll shoot them out of the water.
Close interactions with Iranian stand military vessels were not uncommon in 2016 and 2017. On several occasions, US Navy ships fired warning shots at Iranian vessels when they got too close.
While the Navy has the authority to act in self-defense, Trump's comments appeared to go further and are likely to stoke tensions between Iran and the United States.
I have instructed the United States Navy to shoot down and destroy any and all Iranian gunboats if they harass our ships at sea, Trump wrote in a tweet before the briefing, hours after Iran's Revolutionary Guards Corps said it had launched the country's first military satellite into orbit.
The United States should focus on saving its military from the coronavirus, an Iranian armed forces spokesman said on Wednesday after Trump's comments.
Today, instead of bullying others, the Americans should put all their efforts toward saving those members of their forces who are infected with coronavirus, Abolfazl Shekarchi said, according to the ISNA news agency.
”If the US is skillful and competent, they will withdraw their troops (from the Middle East) in order to save (the country) from the coronavirus disease ... before mobilizing all other forces in the US ... to save the people from this major crisis hitting their country, Shekarchi said.
Earlier this month, the US military said 11 vessels from the IRGCN came dangerously close to US Navy and Coast Guard ships in the Gulf, calling the moves dangerous and provocative.
At one point, the Iranian vessels came within 9m of the US Coast Guard cutter Maui. While such interactions at sea had occurred occasionally a few years ago, they had stopped recently.
Iran on Wednesday also announced that it put its first military satellite into orbit, making it an emerging world power.
The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps hailed the launch as a milestone, in the face of intense US pressure and Washington's allegations that the space program is a cover to develop ballistic missiles.
Today, we are looking at the Earth from the sky, and it is the beginning of the formation of a world power,” the elite unit's commander Hossein Salami said, quoted by Fars news agency.
Tensions between Iran and the United States increased earlier this year after the US killed Qassem Soleimani, the head of Iran’s elite Quds Force, in a drone strike in Iraq.
Iran retaliated on Jan 8 with a rocket attack on Iraq’s Ain al-Asad base where US forces were stationed. No US troops were killed or faced immediate bodily injury, but more than 100 were later diagnosed with traumatic brain injury.
Iran's Revolutionary Guards Corps said on Wednesday it had successfully launched the country's first military satellite into orbit.